Revolutionary paradigm shift in philosophy and aesthetics of marriage

Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh *

The philosophy of marriage has been a beautiful institution, bringing a young man and a woman into partnership leading to a family life for regulating sexual behaviour, reproduction and nurturing the offspring. It was meaningful to talk about the medieval aesthetics of marriage as a delightful procreative art and integrity of marriage. The modern civilisation where individual freedom is a coveted commodity has caused contemporary marriages very fragile. The perceptions and relationship of marriage are no more ethical, bringing chaos in the family.

As Love in the age of living may turn out to be Pandora's baggage the couple bring together, separation and divorce bring endless anguish to both spouses. Sorrows come not in single spies but in battalions, said Shakespeare (Hamlet). The woman has little money and is unable to find work while having to look after her children. She loses her social status. The man finds it hard to cope without his estranged wife, brooding over how the hell it has come about, while waiting for the distressful divorce proceedings. Divorce has no age limit.

The annual celebration of 'National Marriage Week' 2017 in England (Feb 7-14) is over. As divorce is very spiteful and painful, the 'Marriage Week' in the UK, attempts to strengthen the institution of modern marriage that's in tatters, and to reduce divorce rates that harm their children, who in their turn, tend to end their marriages in divorce.

The revolution in the 'holy matrimony' is underway in India including Manipur, puncturing the traditional sanctity of marriage. Unlike elsewhere in India, in Manipur, love marriage as in western society, but though elopement, with or without a formal marriage ceremony is legal and the divorce rate is very low. There is no taboo about divorced women returning to their parents' home. In Manipur, where women traditionally, share fifty percent of building and maintaining the family, such practice as female foeticide is abhorrent.

Worldwide, as women have become more educated, assertive and self-sufficient, often pulling equal weight with their spouses, accumulated minor marital tiffs often lead to divorce. Divorce is more common in the West because of more urbanisation where information about divorce is easily available with more support system from social services during and after divorce. Besides, the courts grant the mother to possess the children (unless she is legally declared incapable of looking after them) and the family house, while forcing the father to pay alimony (until she get married; she never do, while living as partner with another man) and maintenance for their children till they finish their education.

Divorce is no more a rarity among the domiciled Indian and Pakistani communities in Britain, where the increasing social acceptance and financial independence of young women, have liberated a few from meandering in an unhappy married life that is no more a psychedelic blend of two souls, and where their remarriage market remains open.

A few years ago, my wife and I went to a 'love marriage' celebration of a son of a Pakistani Muslim friend. One week later, we called on her at the in-laws' house. While talking of a happy marriage, the locally born girl surprised us by saying "it depends". Three weeks later, she was gone and never returned. More awkwardly, three months ago, we were present at another lavish wedding party of a son of another Pakistani friend. A month later, we met the groom's mother at a function. She casually said, the bride had bolted with all the expensive jewellery, as her demand for a separate house immediately, could not be met.

More seriously, the English wife of a son of an Indian couple friend of mine, who had a sumptuous wedding at The Taj Umaid Bhawan Hotel in Jodhpur that we attended, divorced amicably two years ago, as she met another man. She now cohabits with the man in the family house that her husband vacated. She keeps their two children while the ex-husband maintains her and their children.

Bitchily, a couple of months ago, she asked her ex-husband for more allowance because of rising prices of living. While it was curtailed she refused to let her ex-husband see his children. Children are often used by divorced wives as bargaining power, to spite their husbands or to extract more money. It doesn't matter whether she is the cause for divorce or not.

In India as well, such liberties are also being taken by young educated and self-supporting Indian women, as divorce has become an acceptable face of Indian marriage. A few years ago, a doctor son of a friend of mine in Mumbai, got married to another doctor girl in indulgent celebration at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai, which I attended. This highbrow girl detested living with her in-laws. Months passed by, in utter disgust, at her lack of independence, while she was scheming. By the time their first son was born she decided 'discretion is not the better part of valour'. She returned to her parents' home in Mumbai, taking their son, while continuing to work as a gynaecology consultant in hospital.

Not satisfied merely with separation, she decided to teach her husband and his parents a lesson they won't forget. One day she rang her husband to accompany her and their son to hospital for the son's immunisation. She picked him up in her car with the child and on the way she drove into a police station, accusing the unsuspecting husband of beating her up while she was driving the car. The husband was immediately arrested and the case lasted for a couple of years involving her in-laws, who eventually, just missed imprisonment.

The overall tone sounds like marriage is suicidal (aka 4in10 will end in divorce), while many couples including me, are happily married. Others who have grimly stuck out to their marriage for aeons when wedlock feels like prison, end well. Research by 'Lincoln University and the Marriage Foundation', based on data from 10,000 parents, shows that 7 out of 10 who continued to stay together with their families, though they were unhappy with their marriage, declare they were happy together a decade later. Most marriages have their unhappy moments, but apart from the unfortunate cases where the relationship involves physical abuse, most couples can work through the difficulties to be happy later on.

There is now a revolutionary change in the establishment of marriage, if it were to be taken as a legal agreement between a man and woman for living together for procreation and bringing up a family. Biologically speaking, and liberating from religious myths, the formation of a nuclear family is to produce the best offspring who will survive for the continuation of human species.

Defiling human evolution, the concept of marriage and family, now includes same sex marriage, common law marriage and civil partnership. Family is a subjective hypothesis. You don't have to get married to have a family except that such a family, created by cohabitation (a couple sharing a dwelling without a formal marriage) has always a shaky foundation as they are more likely to separate with illegal children.

Cohabitation seems to be the anti-thesis of the traditional marriage, to free themselves from the emotional and social impact of divorce, though popular with only a minority of less than 40 percent (Pew Research Centre 2010). It seems the institution of marriage will continue though it will alter in its structure with more female emancipation and urbanisation in the society. It will also be delayed as more women, and men place education and career before settling down. The less educated the earlier is the marriage.

The popularity of cohabitation as 'partners' (not wife and husband) though only in some circles, can be glimpsed from the recent statement of Women's right campaigners who have welcomed the recent High Court ruling in London that a woman denied payments from her long-term partner's occupational pension was entitled to be treated as if she had been married.

While the trend in cohabitation has slowly risen from 3 million since 1966, when I first arrived in the UK, to 6 million by 2015, the marriage rates have risen again, especially for youngsters with better-off parents. About 90% of wealthy parents marry off their children while only 24% of the poor do so. Another positive sign is that divorce rates, which soared in the 80s, has fallen back a bit.

It's thought that those who have a successful marriage are couples who are definite in their commitment than it might once have been the case. A commitment is an unspoken individual resolve to bind each other emotionally and intellectually in the marriage, despite their pre-marital expectations of each other that might turn out to be false, and the stress of marriage where two individuals try to bring into confluence two entirely different minds and behaviours.

In the UK, adultery is the most common cause for divorce, 55% (when filed within six months of the applicant discovering the spouses' adultery). Excessive arguing due to lack of understanding and getting on each other's nerves, young marriage, unmet expectations, unreasonable behaviour and financial problem often lead to divorce. Other causes are physical abuse, substance use like alcoholism and sexual incompatibility. Inability to communicate with each other is a contributory factor.

* Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is based in the UK and can be contacted at irengbammsingh(AT)gmail(DOT)com ; Website: www.drimsingh,
This article was posted on March 02, 2017.

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